Buoyed by the bye week, the San Francisco 49ers welcomed defensive end Dee Ford, linebacker Kwon Alexander and safety Jaquiski Tartt back from injury for Saturday’s divisional playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings.
It was no coincidence, then, that along with that trio, the 49ers also welcomed back the dominant defensive unit that set the tone for their 8-0 start, a 13-3 season and a 27-10 destruction of the Vikings.
“The biggest thing for us is just to be ourselves,” said Alexander, who played for the first time since suffering a torn pectoral on Oct. 31. “As long as we be ourselves, everything is gonna happen. As long as we do our technique right and do everything else right, everything is going to fall in place. That’s what happened.”
Indeed, the Niners’ defense was more itself than it had been in about two months, and that return to form came at exactly the right time. The 49ers won their first home playoff game in the existence of Levi’s Stadium and their first postseason game overall since 2013, handing coach Kyle Shanahan and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo their first playoff victory in their initial attempt.
With the win, San Francisco advanced to the NFC Championship Game set for Jan. 19, in which they will meet the winner of Sunday’s divisional round matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers. That game also will take place at Levi’s Stadium.
The return of Ford (quad and hamstring injuries), Tartt (ribs) and Alexander left the 49ers with almost all of their preseason projected starters available for the first time since about Week 3, with only defensive tackle D.J. Jones missing. Their defensive dominance was evident in just about every way imaginable Saturday.
To wit, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information research:
- The Vikings rushed for only 21 yards, the fewest the Niners have ever allowed in a playoff game and the second fewest that Minnesota has had in a postseason contest. Minnesota had 147 yards of total offense and just seven first downs.
- Rookie defensive end Nick Bosa finished with six pressures, including two sacks, becoming the first Niners rookie with multiple sacks in a game since Dana Stubblefield in 1993.
- The 49ers sacked Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins six times, all while rushing just their front four. That is tied for the second most in a playoff game since ESPN began tracking pass-rushers in 2006. Cousins was pressured on 46% of his dropbacks, the second most in his career.
- Those six sacks came from five defensive linemen, all of whom are former San Francisco first-round picks. Before Saturday, no team ever had even four first-round picks with a sack in a playoff game since sacks became official in 1982.
- Vikings running back Dalvin Cook finished with just 26 yards on 15 touches, an average of 1.7 yards per touch.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: ESPN, Nick Wagoner